Harvard Law School student Clara J. K. Long and her Boston-based film crew won a new international media award for their documentary series “Border Stories,” which strives to show the “human face” of the U.S.-Mexico border region.
The team won the Public Prize—one of the Every Human Has Rights Media Awards—which the media development organization Internews created to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Long said that a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border and across the bridge between Brownsville and Matamoros last December inspired the crew to create the documentaries.
“You get to halfway across the bridge and the smell of the developing world starts,” Long said. “Then you realize exactly how close the United States is and exactly how much we forget that in our national debate.”
From May to July, Long and her collaborators travelled the entire border in a 1987 Vanagon to shoot the films.
One of their clips tells the story of Jose Rivera, an 18-year-old born in Mexico and raised in Tempe, Arizona, who had to return to Mexico this year because he had no social security number or photo ID.
“I never really felt I was illegal,” Rivera says in the video. “I felt I was just another teenage American because that’s how I was raised, but I just recently found out that’s not how it is at all.”
Long said that she and her crew wanted to portray not just the politics at the border, but also the “really emotional issues.”
Internews received more than 500 entries for the competition. An international jury then selected 30 finalists, and Internet users worldwide voted to choose the winner of the Public Prize.
Long studied development as an undergraduate at Brown and received a masters in journalism from Stanford. She reported for NPR and the Associated Press before coming to the Law School.
“I became frustrated with what I could do from a journalistic perspective, and decided that I want a different set of tools,” Long said. “Law school for me is about gaining those tools—figuring out how to affect change from an advocacy standpoint and from a legal standpoint.”